I recently lost my voice. I’m not saying I was a little hoarse, I’m saying, I lost it. Completely. No sound. For a week. (And then I was also, and still am, quite hoarse.) The interesting thing that I discovered during this time is that people mimic you. They give back to you what you give to them, without even realizing it.
In other words, wherever I went, people started whispering back to me. Sometimes I would remind them, “You don’t have to whisper. You didn’t lose your voice!” “Oh yeah! That’s funny. I forgot!” One man caught himself whispering and asked if that had happened before. “Yeah, a lot!” He laughed. He said talking to me was like talking to a librarian and he subconsciously was afraid he’d talk too loud and get in trouble. Since I was whispering, he felt he should whisper too.
There are any number of studies on this type of group behavior/response to our fellow man. I recently saw something where a person in a waiting room would stand up every time they heard a bell ring. Gradually, other people in the waiting room starting doing the same, probably assuming there was some reason for the behavior and they didn’t want to be rude. Eventually, the instigator left and yet, the people maintained the behavior. New people would enter and ask why, and even after finding out that no one knew why, they too would stand up and then sit down again every time the bell tolled.
I really kind of hate the thought of being that impressionable and conformist. The video irked me. But, there is a better way to see it. Instead of seeing myself as the dumb sheep who just follows everyone around me, I realize the power of this in a beautiful way. My actions have great power to affect the responses of others. I can generate the response I hope to see in others by doing it first, myself.
The Bible says it this way, “A gentle word turns away anger but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). In this we see both the potential that we have to not simply be conformist sheep responding in kind to what is given to us (responding anger for anger), and the power that we have to affect change in the other person (our gentle response is an act of creation—changing the dynamics, quelling anger and generating peace).
God has given us great power. The power to master our own responses and the power to affect change in the responses of others. Never doubt the power of kindness and gentleness—Jesus changed the world with it. There is power in our whisper.